Historical Institutional Abuse: Brendan McAllister 'will not resign' over data breach

Brendan McAllister

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Brendan McAllister said he takes full responsibility for the data breach

Northern Ireland’s interim victims advocate has said he will not resign despite a lawyer for abuse victims saying there was no longer trust in him following a data breach.

Brendan McAllister has apologised after the identities of 250 survivors of historical institutional abuse were revealed in an emailing error.

A newsletter was sent on Friday without recipients’ names being anonymised.

The email was signed by a staff member but sent on behalf of Mr McAllister.

He said he took full responsibility for the error and has referred the matter to the information commissioner.

Some of the individuals had been part of the Historical Institutional Abuse (HIA) Inquiry and had chosen to remain anonymous.

Solicitor Claire McKeegan, who represents some of the victims, told Good Morning Ulster that the trust of victim’s group Savia (Survivors and Victims of Institutional Abuse) “has been shattered”.

“No apology is going to undo or give back their privacy,” she said.

“The survivors no longer have trust.”

Jon McCourt, from another victim’s group Survivors North West, also told Good Morning Ulster that there’s a “feeling of betrayal and anger”, but groups he is in contact with are currently not looking for Mr McAllister to resign.

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The HIA inquiry investigated historical allegations of child abuse over a 73-year period

Mr McAllister said he “totally accepts the responsibility for the situation but we need to get to the bottom of what has happened in order for people to have confidence moving forward”.

“There are people who have been calling for my resignation and there have been others who have been in touch with me to urge me to stay, because they know that the work for victims of HIA is at a critical stage.”

He added that steps were being taken to investigate how the breach occurred.

‘Absolute hysterics’

The BBC has seen a copy of the original email, which was sent out to people who had engaged with the HIA inquiry.

It had investigated historical allegations of child abuse at 22 residential institutions run by religious, charitable and state organisations across Northern Ireland over a 73-year period.

It had recommended that all victims of institutional abuse should receive tax-free, lump sum payments ranging from £7,500 to £100,000 from a government-funded redress scheme.

One survivor told the BBC that many people had taken part in the HIA inquiry because their privacy was guaranteed; some were described as being in “absolute hysterics” at the breach.

The survivor said it had “completely blown people’s cover” and that she was “extremely annoyed and upset”.

Another person named on the list said he was “horrified”.

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